Shaun Kalis, founder of Ruse Brewing, has a temporary home at Culmination Brewing. He met Culmination owner Tomas Sluiter at Old Market Pub & Brewery. A trust developed and Kalis found himself in a unique situation: he’s part of the Culmination team and uses that system for Ruse between production times. Photo by Kris McDowell
By Kris McDowell
For the Oregon Beer Growler
By definition a "ruse" is a trick or an act that is used to fool someone, according to Merriam-Webster. In some cases, there is malicious intent behind it. In other cases, like with M.C. Escher's impossible constructions, it is a way to play with the mind. In the case of Ruse Brewing, one of the newest to debut on the Portland brewing scene, it speaks to the mystery of the word and is a drinkable expression.
Shaun Kalis is the founder of Ruse, a transplant from Michigan whose resume includes six years at Old Market Pub & Brewery as well as stints at Cascade Brewing Barrel House and Two Kilts Brewing Co. which bookended an education at the American Brewers Guild. Like many, he remembers the beer that opened his eyes to what beer could be beyond the yellow, fizzy swill he had previously known -- a stout from Michigan-based Bell's Brewery, Inc. Known for the vast number of stouts they produce, it's no wonder that the beer had such an impact on the young Shaun and was part of what drove him to begin down the brewing path. What started as homebrewing, and self-described as "minimalist" at that, evolved into something much greater after his relocation to Portland.
The location of that move was somewhat of a random decision based on his desire to get into brewing. And while multiple cities would have sufficed, he could not have landed in a better location than Portland. Not only does the area have an incredible brewing culture, but it has the added bonus of a vibrant live music scene. Although he’s played since he was a kid, Shaun got more serious about music as an adult — taking the time for lessons and then using his skills as a guitar player in a Portland bluegrass band.
When developing the concept for Ruse Brewing, Shaun knew he would incorporate music as he feels it parallels brewing in that a song is written to speak to a particular feeling and experience in the same way that brewing a beer, for him, is speaking to something. Ultimately, Shaun would like to have a brewery/music venue where he can work with artists and musicians to create beers. In the meantime, he has found a fortunate situation and temporary home at Culmination Brewing. Shaun met and worked under Culmination founder Tomas Sluiter at Old Market and their relationship has deepened as Shaun's brewing has evolved. Rooted in their time together at Old Market is a trust that has allowed Shaun to step into a very unique situation: he is both part of the Culmination brewing team as well as an independent brewer utilizing the Culmination system between production times. As collegial as the relationship is, there are designated spaces within the Culmination facility for ingredient, empty keg and cooler storage of beers as well as a 10-barrel fermenter Shaun owns. For anyone that has experienced living with a roommate, allowing someone to have intimate access into one's personal space requires trust and communication. That is taken to a higher level when that sharing of space is in the place that houses one's livelihood and is something that speaks to Shaun's integrity as a person and competency as a brewer.
So what about the beer that Shaun is making? To begin, his year-round offerings will be Translator IPA, a citrus-forward beer with a soft mouthfeel from an English yeast, and Architect Saison, an approachable, session beer (4.8% ABV) that is dry and light in body. He wants to focus on fewer styles out of the gate so that he can be more creative with them. In addition, Shaun is adamant about quality control and committed to dumping out anything that doesn't meet his standards. As part of his role with Culmination, he is also taking over the brewery’s quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC).
Year-round beers may be a solid foundation for any brewery, but it's often the one-off and seasonal beers where brewers really get to have fun. For Shaun that fun is creating barrel-aged beers, saying "something about the oak is so romantic." At first blush, delving into barrel-aging so early on might sound limiting, but as Shaun explains it, "it gives me a buffer — time to focus on the IPA and the saison."
He anticipates the barrel-aged beers will sit for at least nine months, only being released when they're ready and if they meet his standards. The barrels he's sourced, to date, are pinot noir and Burgundy barrels from Walter Scott Wines in the Willamette Valley and spirit barrels from McMenamins and Bull Run Distilling Company. Shaun's first two barrel-aged beers will be MultiBeast and Red Saison. MultiBeast uses Ruse's own Brettanomyces strain (banked at Imperial Organic Yeast) and is dry hopped with Mosaic. Nearly ready, Shaun may debut it at Saraveza's Farmhouse and Wild Beer Festival in March, in addition to bottling it. The Red Saison won't be ready for months as it just went into barrels in December 2015, but a young sample of it shows great promise, displaying a pleasing licorice aroma with hints of leather and oak in the smooth, saison flavor.
Those looking to try out Ruse Brewing for themselves need not look far, starting with the taproom at Culmination where at least one of his beers will be part of the lineup on an ongoing basis. Beyond his home base, the new management at Great Notion (formerly Mash Tun) in Northeast Portland took a shine to Ruse, buying the first available keg in December 2015. And as a 10-year veteran of McMenamins (in a non-brewing capacity), his connections there ensured that beer can be found at some of their locations, including the Market Street Pub near Portland State University. Going beyond beer-centric spots, he's started the process to get both his IPA and Saison into Bamboo Sushi locations. He plans to be in 10-12 businesses around Portland and will be bottling the IPA and saison in 22-ounce bottles in the near future. His barrel-aged beers will be available in a 500-milliliter format.
Alex McGaw, head brewer and owner of Two Kilts in Sherwood, stands in front of his shiny 15-barrel Practical Fusion system that replaced the homemade 7-barrel original system he pieced together before opening in 2011. McGaw is focusing on increasing production, exposure and distribution in the new year. Photo by Patty Mamula
By Patty Mamula
For Oregon Beer Growler
With new craft breweries opening on what seems like a daily basis around the state, a brewery that’s been around for five years is considered an established commodity. That’s the case for Two Kilts, a brewery in a semi-industrial area of Sherwood that Alex McGaw opened in 2011.
McGaw, the head brewer and owner, gave a strong nod to his Scottish heritage in choosing the name. He also developed a solid reputation for making excellent Scottish beer, winning the gold medal for Scottish Ale in 2014 at the World Beer Cup in Denver.
Still, McGaw is quick to point out, “We make all different kinds of beers.”
His winter seasonal beers include an oatmeal chocolate stout and a wheat.
McGaw arrived in Eugene in 2004 from the small, rural town of Dassel in south central Minnesota and immediately fell in love with craft beer. From landscaping he transitioned to delivery work for McMenamins in 2006 when he moved to Portland.
Naturally, he was interested in brewing. “I was in and out of different breweries and locations. I knew all the managers and all the brewers. By the time I started shadowing some brewers, I was also doing some homebrewing.”
One year later, he was a McMenamins brewer. After a three-week training stint at John Barleycorns in Tigard, he moved to the Fulton Pub in Johns Landing. During his four years there, he discovered he had a real knack for brewing beer.
“I like cooking and baking,” said McGaw. “I became pretty good at brewing. I was what you might call a technical, mechanical brewer.”
Eventually, he moved on to a larger McMenamins facility — the Crystal Ballroom with its numerous bars and spaces for live music. There he worked with several different brewers and gained more firsthand brewing knowledge and experience. “I learned the business of brewing. A lot of people were enjoying my beer,” he said.
On his own time, he started assembling a brewing system. Everything came together for him to start his own brewery when he found the Sherwood location in 2011. For two hectic years, he worked two jobs, sometimes around the clock. During the day he brewed for McMenamins at the Crystal Ballroom and at night he brewed at Two Kilts and ran the taproom.
“I thought I was going to get a break with the Crystal Ballroom gig, working four days on and three off, but it didn’t really turn out that way. Still, it was fun. I loved having my own place, working for myself and brewing beer,” said McGaw.
In 2013 he was able to leave McMenaminns and devote himself full time to Two Kilts. “I was finally able to pay myself a livable wage,” said McGaw.
Last summer, he took some Fermentation Science courses at Oregon State and gained a thorough overview of the process. In addition to online work, he spent a week at the Corvallis campus. “I learned the science behind beer and found out how to set up a lab. That’s very important, especially when you start to package your beer,” he said.
Until McGaw gets his own lab up and running, he has turned to fellow brewers for their assistance. “One of our best supporters is Jeff Edgerton at Bridgeport. He takes our samples to his lab to check.
“I love this business because it’s such a supportive community, competitive, yes, but supportive in learning the skill. We’re all trying to make us look good,” he said.
In the past year, McGaw has increased production and marketing. His beers are available around the state, but in small doses. “We’re trying to cover more territory,” he said.
Bottles and cans are available at New Seasons and Plaid Pantry stores, about 100 in all. Right now Two Kilts IPA, Crystal Sunshine and Scottish Ale are available in 12-ounce cans, and the Pale Ale, IPA, Scottish Ale and Cocoa Porter are available in 22-ounce bottles. “We’re trying to expand locally and working on increased distribution to growler shops and other outlets,” he said.
His full-time sales manager, Michael Fiaschetti, has really pumped up sales. “Everyone knows him. He’s made a nice mark for us,” said McGaw.
In addition to a whole new system — a 15-barrel Practical Fusion system with 30-barrel brite tanks, McGaw is adding new beers to the lineup and packaging more for retails sales.
The Crystal Sunshine, popular this summer, he describes as especially crisp and drinkable. “Our Scottish Ale is standard. I’m revamping the IPA to make it bolder. We had a fresh-hop version in the Oaks Park festival this fall,” said McGaw.
He’s thinking of adding an IPA series and a seasonal kettle sour.
With the goal of increased exposure, McGaw has entered Two Kilts in many of the state’s beer and food festivals, including the Bend Brewfest, Feast Portland and the recent Holiday Ale Festival. This was a first for the December fest, which requires brewers to make something that’s not on tap anywhere else.
The Two Kilts contribution was called the Earls of Orkney, a wheat wine with the following description: “A very big mouthfeel is present due to the insane amount of wheat malt that goes into this beer.”
McGaw is brewing three to four times a week. Last year the production topped out at 1,000-plus bottles and he’s planning to double that in 2016.
“We’re trying to support our local community of Sherwood and participate in community events,” said McGaw. He’s looking for another location in Sherwood to expand and add a food menu.
“What’s grown this place is word-of-mouth,” he said. “We’re looking to get into a more visible spot and provide our customers with a great experience.”
When Tyler Staples took over the brewing at Uptown Market in June he “skyrocketed our beer production,” said marketing director Liz Soucie. The former McMenamins Highland Pub brewer is seen here pouring beer at the original Southwest Scholls Ferry location. It’s marking its fourth anniversary this month. Photos courtesy of Uptown Market
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Uptown Market had a very exceptional beginning; in fact, you might call it backwards. Unlike the majority of craft beer establishments that begin with an idea and progress to a place, this one started with an empty space and progressed with an idea.
Uptown Market started out as a real estate opportunity for three guys. They bought an empty convenience store, and then figured out what to put in it.
Brothers AJ and Chris Shepard and their friend Stuart Faris independently came up with the same answer to the question of what to do with their Southwest Scholls Ferry Road location — they all wanted a place where they would hang out and drink beer.
Four years ago this December, the Portland Uptown Market opened as a bottle shop with six taps. Since then, it has expanded. There are now more than 30 different brews on tap, including its own beers, a vast selection of bottled beers and wine as well as homebrew supplies. Almost from the beginning, the casual market developed a loyal following — a dedicated group who wanted to … what else? Hang out and drink beer. With the recent opening this spring of its new location in Lake Oswego, complete with a kitchen and new chef, Uptown Market is branching into brewpub territory.
The business model for the relative newcomer is certainly unique. “Uptown Market is a very expensive hobby that makes them [the owners] money and brings them together. It’s also a showroom for the kind of work they can do,” said Liz Soucie, director of marketing.
AJ and Chris Shepard also own and operate a successful property management company, Uptown Properties. AJ Shepard is a licensed contractor, both commercial and residential, and Chris Shepard is a licensed broker. Faris is the director of marketing for an engineering company. They did much of the design and renovation of the Lake Oswego space themselves, with help from Soucie. In contrast to other startup businesses that often operate on a lean budget, Uptown Market has plenty of capital, said Soucie.
Once the first location was up and going with steady business, the three owners decided to add their own brewery. Actually it was their manager’s idea. Herb Apon, who is now manager for Portland beer hall Loyal Legion, pushed them to brew on-site. “Apon thought it would be a cool idea for Uptown Market to make use of its extra storage space in back and brew its own beer,” said Soucie.
They set up a 7-barrel system purchased from Two Kilts Brewing Co. When empty, the space looked fairly large. But with the brewing equipment installed, the 800-square-foot area filled up quickly.
“The original brewer helped create the brand,” said Soucie. “But Tyler Staples, our new brewer, has really grown the production and reputation of the beer.” Staples came from McMenamins Highland Pub and Brewery in Gresham at the beginning of summer 2015. “He’s skyrocketed our production,” said Soucie.
Staples is focusing on six production beers — from a pale ale developed for Portland Golf Club to a stout, along with seasonals and apple ciders. His two fresh-hop selections were very popular at this fall’s Portland Fresh Hops Fest held at Oaks Park. Soucie said they sell one-third of their fresh-hop kegged beer to other locations, and Staples’ relationship with distributor Willamette Valley Hops is a huge plus when it comes to ensuring seasonal supply.
Both Uptown Market locations feature special events and create a festive atmosphere by having something special “on tap” every weekend. During the summer, the shops often host tastings. “We enjoy bringing in guest brewers. One of their reps comes in. We put up to three or four of their beers on tap. They pour samples for our clientele to promote bottle sales,” said Soucie.
Once the Lake Oswego location opened, the chef started creating food specials to pair with the beer. The menu includes snacks, salads, sandwiches and sausages from Otto’s in Portland, along with burgers and daily specials/happy hour food. The Oktoberfest pork shank was such a hit, it continues be featured on the menu. “We did a special for Baerlic of a pineapple salsa and avocado burger and a beer brat with beer cheese and crispy shallots, using Baerlic beer,” added Soucie. Since the cozy pub is located in the midst of small businesses and professional offices, they also offer catered meals and boxed lunches. The Southwest Scholls Ferry Road location also has a food cart with a similar menu.
Recently, Uptown Market started a mug club for loyal customers. For a $10 monthly fee, members receive in-store discounts on pints, growlers, bottles, food and merchandise. Plus, they have the opportunity to purchase the hand-selected monthly 12-packs of hard-to-find beers and ciders. An optional benefit is your very own personalized mug.
Meanwhile, big plans are in the works for the fourth anniversary celebration of the original Uptown Market on Dec. 12. The fun will come in fours. Four bands, four guest tastings, four food specials, four variations of Uptown’s beer, four firkins and more.
Although the news this summer of a possible partnership with Logsdon Farmhouse Ales appears to be off the table, at least for now, the owners are on the lookout for a large scale production facility, most likely on the east side. As Soucie explained about the Logsdon deal: “The opportunity was brought to the ownership of Uptown Market and at this time it appears there are no plans to move forward with it.” Meanwhile future plans include finding a warehouse facility that’s around 4,000 square feet or so. The space would allow the brewery to can or bottle, build a large-scale pub and store an ample amount of supplies. Additionally, Uptown would like to buy a home and not lease, according to Soucie.
[a] 6620 SW Scholls Ferry Road, Portland
[a] 3970 Mercantile Drive #110, Lake Oswego
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